Nonfiction — Do Something For Nothing

Do Something for Nothing:  Seeing Beneath the Surface of Homelessness, Through the Simple Act of a Haircut

By Joshua Coombes

Published May 18, 2021 by Akashic Books

5 out of 5 stars!

Joshua Coombes never planned on becoming a hairdresser.  Through a chance opportunity in his mid-twenties, he landed a job cutting hair, which would ultimately lead to even bigger, life-changing opportunities.

“I learned how to talk less and listen more.”

In 2015 he would start down a path that would soon lead to a worldwide movement, Do Something For Nothing, aimed at spreading kindness and compassion.  While talking with a homeless man who he frequently saw on his way home, Coombes offered the man a haircut.  While listening to the man’s story while he cut, Coombes felt a sense of connection with the man, which led to the formation of a friendship.  After meeting some of the homeless man’s friends, Coombes soon found himself taking his supply kit around London, offering free haircuts to men and women living on the streets and, most importantly, listening to their stories.

Coombes set out to spread these simple acts of compassion throughout communities abroad, and this book takes us on his journeys around the world.  We meet a family in Los Angeles living in a tent under an overpass while trying to maintain some structure for their young son;  Zero in Denver asking for birthday wishes;  young children in Mumbai with heartwarming smiles;  the charismatic Eelco in Amsterdam who was optimistic about his future; and many others.   Before and after pictures accompany each story, and you can almost feel the emotional changes through the after photos that a simple haircut can bring.  And as for the man on the cover?

Monty, from Sydney, Australia, who shared snippets from his past and a coffee with the author.

I’ll admit that I’ve become rather cynical as I’ve grown older, but Coombes portraits of real people and the effects of a simple kindness at turns broke my heart and gave me hope for humanity.

Highly recommend.

Thank you to Akashic Books for sending me this copy for review!

I hope everyone is staying safe and sane out there.  Feel free to drop me a line anytime, let’s talk books!  Until next time, Happy Reading!

Weekly Mash-Up #122

I love participating in read-a-thons, and as I previously mentioned, I joined in on the latest Unexpected Readathon Time group’s marathon.  My totals for the three days:  706 pages read, and I was able to finish FOUR of my current reads!  And I’m looking towards this weekend,  as there is another one of my Goodreads groups (24B4Monday) doing their monthly challenge…which I will accept!  Since it’s a holiday weekend here in the States, this will cover May 28-31.  I haven’t made any real goals on this one, but I’ll let you know how it turns out.

The Week in Books

Do Something For Nothing by Joshua Coombes — 5 out of 5 stars!

Look for my full review here and at MrPinkInk on January 29!

Broken (In the Best Possible Way) by Jenny Lawson — 4.5 out of 5 stars

Jenny Lawson’s third memoir takes a bit of a different approach from her previous ones.  Her often raunchy humor is still intact, and she continues to share the random weirdness that is her life.  But the difference is in her approach to her mental and physical illnesses.  From sharing experiences with insurance companies to describing her daily battles, this comes across as much more personal, and I applaud Jenny Lawson for opening up as she does.  Highly recommend for fans and first-time readers.

The Rust Maidens by Gwendolyn Kiste — 4 out of 5 stars

“Something’s happening to the girls on Denton Street…”  and believe me, it’s not what you expect.  Kiste does an amazing job of incorporating coming-of-age angst with what I think of as literary horror.  The result is a tale of girls being consumed by the town they live in, with no means of escape (or is there?).  Highly recommend.

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides — 4 out of 5 stars

I am so glad I was able to avoid spoilers and finally read this thriller…what a twist!!  I can’t really say much about the plot without spoilers so I will just say this:  I went into this best-selling psychological thriller with kind of low expectations as I’ve been disappointed with over-hyped books in the past.  I was happy to find out the hype is real!  A bit slow at times which brought it down to four stars, but still highly recommend!

Stay safe and Happy Reading!

Weekly Mash-Up #121

After an extended reading slump, I’m back!  I couldn’t tell you what finally snapped me out of it, but I have to say I’m enjoying this renewed reading energy.  I’ll even be participating in a readathon this weekend.  I know Saturday I will have limited reading time, but Friday and Sunday look promising!  I’ll let you know how I did in next week’s mash-up!

The Week in Books

An Ordinary Man by Paul Rusesabagina — 5 out of 5 stars

I’ve watched the movie, Hotel Rwanda, a couple of times, but it wasn’t until recently that I had heard of Rusesabagina’s autobiography (I guess that shows how little I pay attention to movie credits!).  I cannot even begin to fathom the horror that the author, his family, and every other survivor witnessed during the genocide.   It’s difficult to read at times, but seeing the acts of kindness and even heroism in the face of such evil makes this an inspirational must-read.

The Things We Lost to the Water by Eric Nguyen — 4 out of 5 stars

In this amazing debut, we follow the journey of a Vietnamese mother and her two sons who find themselves living in New Orleans after escaping their homeland in 1979.  Told over the span of 25 years, it’s a story of finding one’s true self, family relationships, forgiveness, and redemption.   I truly enjoyed this new voice and I look forward to reading more of Eric Nguyen’s works in the future.

How to Walk With Steve by Robert Fromberg — 4 out of 5 stars

Robert Fromberg shares memories of his life: his dysfunctional family, his early escape to college, marriage, and his relationship with his autistic brother, Steve.  Each paragraph tells its own story, creating a mosaic of thoughts, emotions, and small moments that led to Fromberg’s personal growth.  I was expecting a little more about his relationship with Steve, but overall I enjoyed this memoir.

Novellas, Short Stories, and Anthologies

The Faster Redder Road:  The Best Unamerican Stories of Stephen Graham Jones — 4 out of 5 stars

One of my May selections.  I’m a huge fan of SGJ, but I had really only read his newer works (Mongrels, The Only Good Indians, etc.).  This collection is definitely a must for fans as it showcases his earlier short stories.  There is a wide range of topics, from his well-known take on horror to some experimental works.  And his notes at the end of each story lends some interesting insight into his creative process.  If you haven’t read any of Jones’ work, give this collection a try as it’s a great introduction for his later writing.

Stay safe and Happy Reading!

NightWorms May Theme — Take Me to Your Leader

Two years ago this month I signed up for a little monthly subscription called Night Worms.  With each package that arrived, I was treated to great horror fiction (even some poetry and nonfiction) with the focus being on indie publishers and new voices in the horror genre.

May was no exception!

Horror with a sci-fi edge was the theme this month, and I’m totally down for that.  Russell Coy’s novella, Dimentia, is the story of a washed-up writer having disturbing visions that begin to cross over into his real life.  Murder at a remote space outpost is the storyline of Dead Space, which will undoubtedly raise that old question:  In space, can anyone hear you scream?

And of course there were the goodies, including Chocolate Chip Mint Ice Cream flavored coffee from Bones Coffee.  Now, I usually don’t drink coffee, but this flavor sounds delicious…maybe iced and over some vanilla ice cream?!?!?  I’ll let you know how that turns out!

Friends and business partners Ashley and Sadie have worked hard to put together these monthly themed packages, and I applaud them for keeping their home-based operation committed to showcasing great indie horror fiction.  Keep it up ladies, I’m looking forward to next month already!

Stay safe and Happy Reading!



Weekly Mash-Up #120

Ah, the dreaded reading slump.  We’ve all been there.  Sometimes it’s the total lack of enthusiasm to pick up any reading material, other times it’s the feeling of not connecting with what you are currently reading.  This past week I fell into the latter category.  I found it so hard to concentrate on my current reads so I decided to try another book…then another…then before I knew it,…I now have 10 books I’m currently reading (all of which I made to at least page 75 or so, so not just “one-page wonders”).  *Sigh*

And it didn’t help matters when I received this awesome stack of bookmail today!!

Where do I begin?!  For nonfiction, A House in the Sky and Gone at Midnight couldn’t be more different.  Sky is the memoir of a woman who was held captive for 460 days by Somalian kidnappers.  Midnight focuses on a strange unsolved death at the notorious Cecil Hotel in Los Angeles (and if you’re not familiar with this hotel, be sure to google it.  It’s a truly extremely creepy place!).

For fiction, I went for some potential tear jerkers.  I’ve heard nothing but positive about Betty, a tragic novel based on the lives of the author’s family.  Valentine is a debut novel that also comes highly recommended, a story of injustice against women in 1970’s Texas.  Finally, The Animals in That Country involves a strange virus spreading around the world, one that allows those infected to “hear” what all animals, birds, insects around them are thinking and feeling.  This one could be very interesting.

Even with my current slump, I was able to finish a couple of books this past week…

The Week in Books

What’s Good:  A Memoir in Fourteen Ingredients by Peter Hoffman — 4/4.5 out of 5 stars

There were a lot of things I truly enjoyed about Hoffman’s memoir.  Each chapter is its own little story, from childhood tales to the love and pain of owning a restaurant, and every little bit in between, all revolving around his passion for good food.  And then there’s the actual food stories.  Shrimp, tomatoes, apples, kale, and beyond, each of the food-related chapters were not only informative regarding the histories but involved the stories of the real people who grow and harvest, the people who devote their lives to providing amazing foods  (the chapter that was my personal favorite was all about the making of maple syrup the “old school” way.  I loved it!!)  And let’s not forget the recipes!   It’s obvious that Hoffman has a deep love and appreciation for all food and has created a memoir to bring his passion to the masses.  My only complaint?  The seemingly petty and self-serving diss of a deceased chef which really had no place in this otherwise wonderful book.  Other than that, highly recommend.

The Man Who Smiled by Henning Mankell — 4 out of 5 stars

The fourth installment in the Kurt Wallander series has Wallander returning to work after a year’s leave to investigate the murders of two lawyers tied to a mysterious CEO billionaire.  As with all of the books I”ve read in this series so far, there are some great twists and secondary stories that keep the narrative moving.  If you haven’t checked out this series, I highly recommend it…however, be sure to start at the beginning with Faceless Killers.

Stay safe and Happy Reading!

May — Matthew’s Choice

Last year I had my son, Matthew, help me make my monthly reading list on a couple of occasions.  He did such a great job that I had him go through my massive piles of unread books to pick out some good material for May.  And he did not disappoint!

When he picked The Faster Redder Road I was extremely pleased.  This collection of early works by one of my fangirrl fav authors, Stephen Graham Jones,  is a mix of short stories, excerpts, and essays.       Rise the Dark was chosen for its cover (“It looks like a creepy book.”).  The synopsis certainly sounds creepy, with a released killer on the hunt for revenge.    And the reasoning behind choosing Herman Koch’s The Dinner?   It’s Matthew’s favorite meal.  Hey, I can’t argue with that!

Looking through my Goodreads groups, many of the books featured this month have been picks of the past.  So I will use this space to ask you…What will you be reading this month?  Feel free to drop me a line, I love talking books!

Until next time, stay safe and Happy Reading!